To hear running back C.J. Gable tell it, his block to set up Robert Woods' 97-yard kick return touchdown at Minnesota was nothing special.
"They told me to make that block and he'll be open, so I made the block," Gable said.
"All I know is 11 guys did their job exactly right," said special teams coach John Baxter of Woods' return. "It's a players' game and they executed it to perfection."
But that block helped USC take a lead it would never relinquish and push the Trojans' record to 3-0. In fact, every game so far this season has been marked by a critical play on special teams, just as coach Lane Kiffin had hoped when he first dedicated a large portion of every practice.
Ronald Johnson had a punt return for a score at Hawaii. Shareece Wright blocked a field goal against Virginia.
But it has been Gable and linebacker Chris Galippo leading the way, embracing their new roles in spite of diminished playing time on offense and defense.
Said Gable: "I just want to get on the field. If it's special teams, that's what I got to do, I'll do it."
Kiffin praised both for their attitude.
"I think those are steps to becoming a really good team," Kiffin said. "It's great to see older guys like that understand how important it is, no matter what play it is – offense, defense, special teams – to have the same effort."
"The fact that they are embracing these roles is really a good advertisement for what we're teaching which is toughness, discipline and team," Baxter said.
For Galippo, who started all 13 games at middle linebacker last season, the transition under Baxter has been almost seamless as he was educated in many of the same techniques in his time at Anaheim Servite.
"What's funny is the entire coaching staff at Servite either played or (were graduate assistants) under Coach Baxter at Fresno State, so we did a lot of similar schemes so I was used to it already," Galippo said. "I was a veteran already even though he came in brand new."
And while Galippo had an interception and a sack against the Gophers, he said his focus remains on his role on all coverage and return teams.
"Football is the one sport where you got to really be a good team player and learn to develop into a role and find your place on the team. I'm taking special teams extremely seriously and I've performed well," he said.
Junior safety Drew McAllister is set to undergo surgery on his hip and miss the rest of the season.
He will use a medical redshirt and have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
The most experienced safety on the roster, McAllister was expected to compete for a spot in the starting lineup this spring but was sidelined by surgery to repair a torn labrum. He had played as a reserve in the Trojans' first three games.
"He's come back and kind of been at 80 or 90 percent at times, then re-aggravated it," Kiffin said. "He just can't go anymore. It's the right decision to make and gives us another year."
True freshman Demetrius Wright steps in as the fourth safety and could see significant action in Saturday's Pacific 10 Conference opener at Washington State.
"He's going to need to play," Kiffin said. "We're going to play him in this game regardless of the score and give him some experience on defense."
-Freshman defensive back Patrick Hall has been reinstated to the team, Kiffin said.
Hall, who is expected to redshirt after tearing knee ligaments in fall camp last year, was suspended indefinitely last month for undisclosed violations of team rules.
"He did everything we asked for three weeks," Kiffin said. "He really seems to have changed his attitude from downstairs with academics to upstairs with us."
-Defensive end Armond Armstead (shoulder), linebacker Michael Morgan (undisclosed) and tight end Xavier Grimble (ankle) were all limited in practice.